James Ball

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James Ball

James is a photographer from London who works under the pseudonym of @docubyte

Your photos and Instagram gallery is really unique. Can you tell us a little bit about your process in choosing objects, backgrounds, and post processing? Do you have your own studio?

My work seems to sort of started heading this way on its own accord. I’ve been shooting for a long time but only really started shooting ‘studio-based’ objects and historical items over the past year or two. I’m just a massive nerd and fan of retro so I’ll quite happily spend my time in weird museums looking out for interesting things from history.

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Most of your pictures have some sort of vintage technology. I’m not totally sure, but they seem like objects from the Space Race era. What do these objects mean to you? 

That’s a period that is of huge interest - in terms of history, achievement and (of course) design. I’m probably just a nostalgic but it seems to me that everything designed 20/30/40 years ago looks way cooler than it does now. 

How did you become interested in them? 

I think it’s a mix of the nostalgia and the aesthetic. Often I’m quite guilty of not really knowing entirely what I’m looking at. I would need it explained to me - but I know it just looks cool. It could be a rocket engine, an old computer, or an old navigational device.. its obsolescence mixed with its design, its use, its historical importance. All of these factors fascinate me to (enough of a) degree where I want to photograph it.

And how do you get your hands on them?

I rarely get anything in my hands. I usually just ask the kind people running the museums themselves for permission to shoot certain their collections and often in return I’ll make some images for them too.

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These objects in your shots also seem to be in tip top shape, almost brand new condition. Are they actually new or do you restore them? Or just edit and polish in the edit?

This is the bane of my life. I started a project about vintage computers and I started cleaning them up because not only did it change their contextual history to something new – but they also looked nicer. I’ve now got this massively overwhelming back catalogue of objects I’m compelled to clean up!

Which of the objects is your favorite piece? Whether from its history, technological function, or just because of how rare it is.

Hands down the SAGE Computer Operators Console. It’s this really angular, grey defense computer built by IBM in the late 1950s with a great big circular yellow screen and a kind of gun utensil to interact with the screen. It’s totally unique and extremely rare. I don’t think any object could sum up my interests so perfectly. It’s been an absolute mission to retouch too. The Computer History Museum in San Francisco kindly let me shoot it – but the thing was behind glass and under a mess of lights, so it’s been very tricky.

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If you had to choose only one color background to shoot for an entire year, which color would it be? And why?

Coral red. No idea why but I just love that color!

You are a master of understanding and working with colors, but what is your favorite colorful food or drink to have?

Ha! The extent of my understanding of food, and its color, limits me to know I need to eat more green - while I do however mostly enjoy eating beige.

Where can we find your work? And future projects to keep an eye out for?

I’ve been doing a project about the relatively unsung British space industry. The look on that is all on white backgrounds, so a bit more stark. Think a 2001 kind of vibe. 

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Q&A by Kevin De Los Santos    +

Jack Sommer